The Hunga Munga: Menacing African Throwing Knife

4 minute read

The "Hunga Munga" or Mambele originates from Africa, and is a genre of knives which were used in both hand-to-hand combat, and for throwing over long distances.

Double-Edged Danger

The Hunga Munga comes in many different shapes and sizes, but is generally built with an iron blade, a reward site and a curved section towards the back of the weapon. They were used in battle to either pierce the body of an opponent, or throw from a long distance - some reports say up to 250 feet 75 metres(!), but a more common and reasonable estimate seems to be around 30 feet (10 metres).

Due to have 3 or 4 blades, it was highly likely to hit and damage a target when thrown.

Status Symbol and Gift Of Importance

Many warrior groups classed Hunga Munga as a status symbol, with only professional soldiers allowed to own them. In other cases, knives such as the Munga Munga would be distributed to a bride's family as a bride price in the case of marriage.

A selection of Mambele throwing knives in the British Museum
A selection of Mambele throwing knives in the British Museum

Close Range and Distance Throwing

Warriors would sometimes carry 3 or 4 of such knives into a fight, using their shield to cover them. They could then be used either at close range, or thrown from a distance to take the enemy by surprise.

Weight was generally distributed towards the front of the weapon, making it easier to both swing and to throw.

Hunga Munga from Forged in Fire contestant
Hunga Munga from Forged in Fire contestant

The Hunga Munga in Modern Culture

The Hunga Munga was featured in the TV Series "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" to refer to a throwing knife used by Buffy.

The style has also been referred to in the History Channel's "Forged in Fire", where contestants were challenged to create their own version of the F-Shaped throwing knives under strict criteria for blade and weight: